In a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 83 mostly Democratic lawmakers have called for the VA to cover gender reassignment surgery.

In the letter, dated September 7, 83 House members called denial of the procedure for transgender people “unconscionable.”

“Simply put, the VA has an obligation to provide the necessary care that is prescribed to enrolled veterans by their health care practitioners,” the letter states. “It is unconscionable to deny veterans the same access to health care services that civilians receive in the private sector, and that is available to Medicare beneficiaries and federal workers, simply because of outdated and unscientific prejudice against their gender identity.”

There are an estimated 160,000 transgender veterans in the United States.

“It is simply unacceptable that we would ask our veterans to risk their lives to protect our rights but we would refuse to defend theirs in return,” said California Representative Julia Brownley, top Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Health Subcommittee. “The VA must put an end to this discriminatory and outdated ban on treatments for gender dysphoria and ensure that all our nation's veterans have access to the health care they have earned.”

Outgoing Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has a transgender son, is the only Republican to join the effort.

Charlotte Clymer, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said in a statement that the exclusion of gender reassignment surgery from VA coverage “undermines the health and wellbeing of transgender patriots who have laid their lives on the line for this country and their families.”

The VA's policy of not covering such procedures is currently being challenged in federal court.